By Margaret Waage, Correspondent
The tenth annual Italian-American Festival drew crowds last weekend, despite a heavy downpour Sunday afternoon. Luckily the heaviest rain occurred after the traditional procession, which successfully made its way along stretches of Eden Avenue and Liberty Street and winding its way back to the main staging area off Center Street, adjacent to the UNICO club of Southington.
Marchers carried the statue of Mary, the Madonna Della Strata and kept a tarp handy for the possibility of rain en route. The festival had a huge turnout opening night with a full entertainment schedule that included a variety of vocalists from classical to Broadway and pop styles. A magic show by The Great Leone and the Kids Carnival, a first for the festival, gave parents entertainment choices for youngsters.
Festival co-chairman Joe LaPorte of the UNICO club of Southington spoke how grateful he is to all the sponsors, volunteers and talent that make the festival possible.
“Planning the event starts as early as January in the calendar year,” he said. “When July arrives everyone involved gets excited to see everything come together.”
Saturday featured a homemade wine contest, in its seventh year, and offered tastings of both red and white samples. Between the entertainment and host of food vendors the festival continues to entice locals, along with neighboring townspeople, to visit Southington.
The UNICO club of Southington served up sausage and pepper grinders, the Sons of Italy Club served Pasta Fagioli and Soffrito. Napoli Deli had Porchetto sandwiches and rice balls and Jaycees provided fried dough with sauce. Dina’s Restaurant cooked Artichoke Francaise and Brixx Restaurant served their twist on a tradition: mashed potato and bacon pizza.
Traditional and favorite desserts such as Italian pastry and Espresso were available from Luigi Barbato and Gelato and Italian Ice from the Riccio family satisfied the yearning for something rich, cool and refreshing.
A large blackboard called the Before I Die Wall beckoned people to reflect on what they most wish for and post their desires in different colored chalk onto the board. The wall was a popular spot. Posts were in a constant state of flux, and some were erased in order to make room for new entries throughout the weekend.
“Raffle money raised helps make the festival possible,” said Bob Triano, co-chairman of the festival committee, representing the Sons of Italy.